Attorneys are expected to put their client’s interests first. They should never take on a case that puts them in a position where they can’t do this. In some cases, attorneys are forced to turn down a case due to conflict of interest. Unfortunately, some lawyers will take on cases that have this issue, which can put their clients at risk of receiving inadequate legal representation.
A lawyer who willingly works on a case despite knowing there is a conflict of interest might face disciplinary action from the state bar, but clients who have suffered a loss as a result of the attorney’s actions also have the right to file a malpractice lawsuit.
Some conflicts of interest are obvious. For example, a lawyer shouldn’t provide a client with representation if that client is suing the lawyer’s family member. Similarly, the lawyer couldn’t provide legal advice to a person about a premarital agreement if the attorney already represents that person’s future spouse.
It is also possible for a conflict of interest to occur within a law firm. The firm can’t represent both sides of a legal matter even if the attorney for each side is a different person. The firm also couldn’t let an attorney who previously worked at the other side’s firm work on the case within their firm.
Sometimes, a situation arises that enables the attorney to circumvent the conflict of interest. The key here is that it can’t be illegal, they can’t represent both sides of a matter, and they must be able to provide competent representation. Typically, they will need written consent from their client to do this.
If you think that your attorney had a conflict of interest that affected the outcome of your case, you might explore taking legal action.